Information technology: A rapid growth segment of Career and Technical Education
When Career and Technical Education is discussed today, computer skills generally and Information Technology specifically are often among the first fields mentioned. This recognition is deserved. Society’s means of communication and methods of storing information are becoming increasingly computer-dependent, and those with digital expertise are finding their skills in high demand and playing ever larger roles in America’s workforce. This blog post details the potential that Information Technology offers to not only provide individuals with skills that they will find useful in their careers, but to serve as a driver of the American economy through its high rate of growth as a sector.
Employment related to Information Technology is projected to increase faster than employment within any other CTE Career Cluster through 2018. Subfields such as cybersecurity, cloud computing and data management will see particularly strong growth, as will specific occupations like Information Security Analysts, Information Systems Managers and Software Developers. This steep demand for employees has manifested itself in both increased hiring and highly competitive wages. IT employees in 2012 had average earnings of more than $76,000 per year, compared to the overall U.S. average of about $35,000.
Notably, these benefits are not restricted to those with postsecondary degrees, as Information Technology is, along with STEM, the best-paying Career Cluster for those with middle-level skills. Different Information Technology jobs are available to those with all levels of education, from high school diplomas to postgraduate degrees. The large majority of IT jobs do require some postsecondary education, but this includes not only the commonly discussed four-year college path but also education that prepares both young students and adult learners to earn industry-recognized certifications and other specific credentials that may provide just as effective a path to employment.
As in many other strong CTE programs, work-based learning experiences such as job shadowing, internship and apprenticeship programs are crucial for Information Technology students. Through such programs, companies like CompTIA, Cisco, Apple, Oracle and Sun offer students the opportunity to earn degrees, stackable certificates, and other useful credentials.
ACTE’s short micro documentary film describes just such a program at the University of the District of Columbia Community College. Through this program, AdminTech Academy Security+, students of various ages develop the skills and knowledge necessary to pass CompTia’s Security+ certification exam and find careers in specialized security fields. In the film, the class professor notes that many students enter his program already possessing bachelor’s and even master’s degrees, but seek the skills that this program provides as a necessary step to advance their careers. The documentary also describes how the program offers students the chance to take on hands-on projects that simulate the work they will see in the real world, and notes that the security skills taught in this class are helpful for jobs in the federal government, state governments and many other institutions.
An additional reason that Information Technology will hold such an essential position in America’s economy going forward is that every other rapidly growing Career Cluster, from Healthcare to Transportation to Advanced Manufacturing uses computer systems that need to be maintained and optimized by Information Technology workers. As these other sectors continue to flourish, their need for strong Information Technology employees will intensify.
For additional information on the increasing employment opportunities within other CTE Career Clusters, and examples of specific strong CTE programs that make this growth possible, check out ACTE’s other Microdocs and Sector Sheets.
About the Author
LeAnn Wilson has served as the executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) since her appointment in 2013, after having served as ACTE’s chief financial officer since 2005. Through her leadership role, Wilson has gained a deep appreciation for the work that America’s career and technical education (CTE) professionals do every day to equip their students with the skills they will need to keep our country strong, and she has strived to raise awareness of CTE among policymakers and the public. She has demonstrated exemplary leadership during her time with ACTE, including the development of sound institutional financial strategies to ensure long-term organizational stability and growth. Wilson has served in a variety of financial positions during her career, including 16 years in nonprofit association environments. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Maryland, College Park, and currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, Terry, and two daughters, Kelly and Samantha.